Anyone ever tried to put up a sound post in a fiddle?
Is it too difficult - if so how much would I expect to pay to have it done?
Anyone ever tried to put up a sound post in a fiddle?
Is it too difficult - if so how much would I expect to pay to have it done?
This is something I always pay to have done. Getting the sound post upright is hard enough; you have to use the proper tool, and getting it exactly in the right position is almost impossible unless you are a professional or do this sort of thing on a regular basis. Mis-placed sound posts can cause all sorts of problems from tonal troubles to cracks in your instrument. My luthier charges me $25.
I have a fiddler friend who’s boyfriend is a luthier. They recently spent a good 6 hours one day moving the soundpost in her fiddle around in barely discernable increments to see where it sounded best in her fiddle. Too much time…
That is a long time; hope he doesn’t charge by the hour. My guy is really quick--I don’t even need an appointment. I wish I could do it myself, but I’m too klutzy. I really scraped up a fiddle I was practicing on, all the time thinking Sheesh--what if this were someone’s Strad? Being a luthier is a high art.
I don’t actually know, especially since directly after she got one of those fiddle pickups that’s set into a soundpost and they ended up replacing the post for the p/u anyway! 🙂
well, if anyone would know, it’d be you luthier types, David. Will sets his own all the time, I’m waiting for him to chime in…
I’ve done it… and sworn not to do it again. It takes a lot of practice and understanding of what you’re after. I did a pretty lousy job of it and scratched the edge of the f-hole in the process.
There are two or three different kinds of tools that can be used for the job. I felt clumsy with all of them. It’s sort of like reaching through a keyhole with a screwdriver to assemble a watch on the other side of the door. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but that’s what it felt like to me.
Leave it to the pros, or apprentice to become a luthier.
yes,i would certainly go to someone who knows what they’re about although i have witnessed a player doing an emergency job with just a couple of teaspoons.
the right tools seem to have a whiff of the spanish inquisition about them which is to be expected.or is it?
Rumor has it that Torquemada tortured people by making them set sound posts.
Here they come again:
- & here are two guys who got those soundposts in the wrong place - & they’re just about to get their just deserts - mind you, looks like they’re quite excited at the prospect! 🙂
After watching someone replace a soundpost - it took them 2-3 hours before eventually getting it just right - I thought that there has to be an easier way.
My suggestion as an observer only - NOT an expert - is two straws and some very fine wire. Pass the doubled wire down the straws so there is a loop at one end. Insert the sound post through one side (F-hole) and pass it over to the other side so that the other straw can be attached to the opposite end of the sound post. These to attachments can be then used in conjunction with the usual tool whatever it’s called, to get the stupid thing into the exact spot. After which the wires are pulled back through the straw.
I’d have to say that the straw is the weak link here and a suitable shaped hard plastic tube would be a lot better. Fishing line or silk thread would also be easier to manage than fine wire.
Now I’ll just go and take my tablets…………..
One of those good people at Bristol Violin Shop averred that setting a violin sound post is guaranteed to reduce a grown man to tears. And he makes and repairs violins. So there!
An important parameter is the distance of the sound post from the treble foot (under the E-string) of the bridge. If the sound post is too close or too far away from the bridge but is otherwise not misplaced to one side or the other then it may be possible for the player to effect an improvement by moving the bridge away from or towards the sound post, as the case may be. This is easy enough to do (I’ve done it myself), and it’s generally not much more than a millimeter or so of movement that’s required. But I stress that this is basically a temporary expedient and a visit to the luthier for the proper job to be done should be pencilled into one’s diary at an early opportunity.
Reading these posts makes me realize how lucky I am to know a good violin shop. I dropped off a harsh-sounding Chinese factory fiddle for a couple of hours, and came back to find the bridge lowered and the soundpost adjusted so that it sounded much mellower.
Some things are best left to the professionals.
Yes - deceptively simple little job, best left to the pros. My fiddle has sound post damage on the belly due to someone yonks ago forcing a soundpost that was too long, into position. The luthier who eventually managed to correct the problem, had to cut the top edge of the post so that half of it fitted snuggly into the scalloped indentation in the belly of the fiddle, and the other half flush with the undamaged part. Not an easy, or quick job - I think he had to cut about 3 or 4 different posts before he was satisfied that he’d compensated for the damage and had the post in the optimum position. Find a good luthier!
School violin is brought into a good music shop. Man at the counter notices a sparkle of metal in the back. The school caretaker had solved the problem of a slipping soundpost by nailing it, through the back !
Sad but true. And it was a reasonable fiddle, too.
I think you can make a soundpost setter out of a metal coat hanger - twist it and bend it so you’ve got a two-pronged end, and sharpen the ends chisel-style, then spear the soundpost and wiggle it into position. That’s the theory, and I’m going to try it out on a cheap Chinese fiddle that someone’s given me (the soundpost is loose inside). No, I wouldn’t try it on a decent fiddle.
A metal sound post? Now there’s an interesting proposal for a scientific investigation. Mind you, it’s probably been done before. Heifetz in his early days played a concert or two on an aluminum fiddle - although he didn’t make a career of it - and it may have had a metal sound post.
A sound post transmits the vibrations of the belly to the back plate. A wood sound post has, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong, David or Milosdad), a vibration pattern that is outside the audible range. That may not be so for a metal sound post, so there could be a noticeable effect on the tonal quality. Also, I would expect the propagation of sound waves through a fibrous cylinder (wood, with a directional grain) to be markedly different to that through a homogenous metal cylinder. Again, I would expect this difference to have an audible effect on the tone and response.
Oh it’s definitely worth taking a week’s vacation to gain insights into how to proprerly set a sound post and simultaneously plumb the more desperate dungeons of your blighted soul. Your kids will thank you for the new-found vocabulary, and the dog will be on best behavior for a spell. What better way to spend your time?
I was told to use a bicycle spoke to make a to improvise a sound post setter, a bit finer and easier to bend. I certainly agree that moving the bridge a little to experiment is far easier than moving the sound post. The tone you want is personal . I know someone who had luthier set up their fiddle thought it was worse than before, a bit like a hair cut it’s best to tell them what sort of sound change you want. Good luck if you try it is a “fiddle” to do.
do not ever try to set your own sound post or move your bridge around to different positions…well not if you care at all about your violin anyway…soundposts are not hard to set, but neither is making a souffle if you know what you are doing…as far as the bridge, you will end up scraping the belly of your fiddle, and on top of that, there is a proper place for the bridge to be (in relation to string length) and after that is established, the soundpost placement….take it to a luthier
I understand that some people simply aren’t inclined to do their own basic maintenance on musical instruments. But it’s only scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. Once you’ve learned a few simple concepts, it’s quite easy. And anyone capable of learning how to make music with horse hair tied to a stick certainly has the smarts to learn how to take care of their fiddle.
Besides, positioning a bridge is not difficult. Even fitting a bridge (shaping the feet to match the fiddle top and cutting the appropriate arc with string notches) is worth learning how to do, and certainly not rocket science. Same goes for fitting a chinrest or even tailpiece.
It’s a bit sad to see somene cough up $20 or more every time their bridge slips just because they’re afraid to learn how to take care of it themselves. Bridges get tugged this way and that due to tuning, so they need a little TLC at least once a week if you play much at all. (It’s really silly when someone who’s played fiddle for years still pays a music shop to change their strings for them--unless they have money to burn.)
Also, it’s not an uncommon practice to loosen the strings and remove the bridge when shipping a fiddle to protect the top from possible damage. Some people even do this when taking a fiddle as carry-on on airplanes. Not a big deal if your sound post is fit properly and you know how to reset the bridge.
You avoid scratching the top by loosening the strings before moving the bridge. Positioning the bridge is a function of the instrument’s scale length and so the best placement varies from one fiddle to the next.
Best bet is to ask (perhaps even pay) a good violin maker or repair person to teach you these basics of instrument care.
Will, not all of us can juggle seven chain saws.
But, seriously, I’m willing to do the things you mentioned, plus make a nut and scrape a fingerboard. I just draw the line at fitting/setting a soundpost.
Emoticon didn’t come out right. 🙂 There.
LOL, but that’s my point about wielding a hairy stick--making music out of a wand of horse hair is *a lot* harder than juggling seven chainsaws. 🙂 And in the grand scheme of things, positioning a bridge is child’s play.
Agreed though that fitting a soundpost can be the most frustrating job on a fiddle, and that alone may be reason enough to leave it to the professionals.
straightening a bridge is one thing, and you need to know how to do this…repositioning a bridge is quite another…
setting a soundpost and carving a bridge is not basic violin care and maintenance…if your bridge is getting tugged around fomr tuning and basic playing, then whoever did the set up on the violin did not do a very good job
Ever wonder why there are so many crappy sounding fiddles out there?
It is because pople do not know how to optimize the tone of a violin, or they do not know what a good fiddle sounds like…a good luthier can help do this by carving a proper bridge, removing more or less wood from the kidneys, making sure the feet contour the belly, thickness of the base and top, etc…all of this makes a difference, not even getting into the diameter or density of wood that you may choose for your soundpost.
If you want to do a hack job, do it yourself. If not, find a good luthier, and btw, I know of several instrument makers who are not good luthiers or that can set a soundpost or cut a good bridge. Find out who the biggest, nearest symphony takes their violins to, and take yours there as well.
Not very sunny post there, Sunnybear.
Not everyone who works on their own fiddle is a “hack,” and some of us can optimize our own instruments--because we’re far more intimately familiar with them--better than most luthiers. (Of course, some of us have no shortage of luthery experience ourselves.)
Luthier are just people too. The way *anyone* learns to do this is by doing--tinkering with cheap instruments, going to a violin making/repairing school, or apprenticing, and gradually gaining the experience. If you’ve never tinkered with a fiddle, you can’t know what your own capabilities are, and might want to think twice before setting limits for others.
Positioning a bridge well is certainly within the reach, with a little instruction and practice, of most people.
sorry about the tone, Will, but I have seen too many people, thinking that they are knowledgeable, try to do their own work. My post was not meant to insinuate that you do not know how to set a soundpost, but it was meant to say that if someone thinks that they can just wrap a piece of wire around a twig of wood and pull up a post nto position, they are mistaken..there is way more to it than that. The original post was asking how hard it was, and I did not answer that. In fact just the act of putting up a post is quite easy. Now to do it right without compromise is quite another…
I would though say that there are many people who think that they know what they are doing who in fact do not. I am sure that you are not one of them.
Heh, 20 minutes into setting a sound post, I’m usually questioning whether I know what I’m doing…. 🙂
Yes indeed there are people who know less than they think they do, and some of them charge exhorbitant fees for setting a bridge or adjusting a soundpost.
On the other extreme are people who are so afraid of doing anything that they never learn basic instrument care and end up doing more harm than good through ignorance and neglect.
Fiddle bridges do get to leaning from normal string tuning friction, and sometimes they fall down if the pegs slip due to temp and humidity changes. I once had an end pin break on an old violin right before a gig. Strings, tailpiece, and bridge went flying. Fitting a replacement end pin was easy, but if I didn’t know how to reset the bridge I would’ve missed the gig. As it was, the fiddle was ready to go again in 15 minutes.
Honestly, I think one of the best things any serious musician can do is find a $25 instrument (whatever one they play) at a pawn shop or broken one at the dump and take it apart and try to put it back together and do a proper set up. You can learn oodles just from doing an autopsy on a trashed instrument, and then go from there.
“Honestly, I think one of the best things any serious musician can do is find a $25 instrument (whatever one they play) at a pawn shop or broken one at the dump and take it apart and try to put it back together and do a proper set up. You can learn oodles just from doing an autopsy on a trashed instrument, and then go from there.”
I would tend to agree with this only if one knew what good violin tone were to begin with. Otherwise you are just going through the motions of putting something back together close enough to where it was before you took it apart.
Would you learn to move the post closer to the e string to clear that up, or closer to the g to help unmuddy that string…would you learn how to get rid of an unfocused sound by recarving a bridge or that you can minimize a wolf by altering the string length or the correct height of the bridge, if you knew enough to check the neck angle ?
I find an answer to the problem of a bridge falling over due to peg slippage is to ensure that the E-peg is tight enough so that it is the least likely of all the pegs to slip, and then there will always be sufficient pressure to hold the bridge even if the other pegs slip. The E-string of course is always tuned using a micrometer adjuster because of its high tension (except when a new string is put on), but I ensure that the other pegs are able to move freely enough so that they can always be used easily for tuning independently of any micrometer tuners that may be present - whether the strings are synthetic or steel core. Incidentally, this requirement also means that the notches in the nut and the bridge must be smooth enough to allow the strings to move with minimum friction - no sharp edges either. When I change a string I rub a little pencil lead graphite (3B is ok) into the notches. To my mind, if a player has a history of string breakage at the nut or bridge that is an indication that there is roughness or a sharp edge associated with that slot, something that is more cost effective to remedy then continually replacing broken strings.
A few months ago, I realized that the sound of my 2-year old new fiddle wasn’t developing quite as I had hoped. On closer investigation, and doing a few measurements, I noticed that the sound post was clearly further from the bridge than it should have been (measured in the direction of the axis of the instrument). I thinned the bridge slightly and repositioned it about 1 mm or so towards the tailpiece, and the improvement in resonance and tonal power was marked. No scratches on the belly either! Next year I’ll take it to someone whom I can trust to do a good job in order to have the sound post checked out and, if necessary, replaced. Remember, a new instrument’s sound post (or bridge) isn’t necessarily always of the best quality or even correctly placed, and it may take a while for this to become apparent. At any rate, with my interim external adjustments I’ve got a better idea of my new fiddle’s capabilities, so further work will be justified.
You can say that in setting up a fiddle - or any other instrment for that matter - the devil truly is in the detail.
Sigh. Sunnybear, knowing what good tone is or how to set up a fiddle or correct problems is an endless learning curve. No one ever arrives at a finish line of “complete mastery” of any of these skills. There’s always more to learn, and it’s also fairly subjective.
We all have to start somewhere. Tinkering with an el crapo instrument is a good way to gain the basic skills and understandings of how stuff works. When you want to learn more, you take the next step. There’s also a lot of information available on violin making, repair, and set up--on the web, in books and magazines, and from friendly luthiers. Even the best learn through experimentation, borrowing ideas from others, trial and error. “Experts” are made, not born.
Your blanket discouragement of anyone trying to learn this stuff strikes me as unnecessarily harsh and unrealistic. If everyone heeded that advice, we’d run out of luthiers in one generation.
Sorry again Will…I don’t mean to discourage anybody from trying to learn something new, so don’t “sigh” at me, but be realistic. I never even came close to saying that someone could not LEARN these skills, as you are stating. I am however discouraging someone from trying this at home who thinks that they can simply pop up a post just by asking a question on a forum.
I wholeheartedly agree that if someone wants to learn how to do this type of stuff, follow your suggestion, but there has to be a degree of willingness to learn. I think our differences may be symmantical…I never suggested that someone should not try and LEARN how to do this…I meant to convey that if you think that attaching a wire to a piece of wood and pulling this up inside your violin is what is called setting a soundpost, you are wrong and should go to a luthier. Same with carving a bridge…buying a blank and shaping the feet to the table and guessing at the correct height is not carving a bridge.
Learning these skills is, like you say, a lifelong process and there is never an end, just an increased awareness of knowledge.
In the 70s a friend of mine, a chemical engineer by profession and an amateur cellist, got interested in repairing violins and cellos as a hobby. He bought beat-up and damaged instruments cheaply at auctions and in second-hand shops, took them apart, repaired and rebuilt them, all the time learning from the experience, reading up the best reference books he could lay his hands on (internet resources weren’t around in those days), and getting advice from friendly luthiers.
Eventually, he got to the stage a few years later when he felt he was ready to make a violin. He made quite a few instruments over the next few years, mostly violins, but also a few violas and a handful of cellos - an instrument which he said was the most difficult of them all to make. Some of his output was sold to professional players, so the instruments must have been of a reasonable standard. I think his hobby would have helped his day-job retirement pension along a bit as well.
I’m nowhere near that league, nor am ever likely to be, but it should be well within the capabilities of any fiddle player who is prepared to do a bit of background research on the internet and to ask questions of those who know, to do what is essentially routine maintenance on the instrument, as has been outlined in this and other discussion threads, and to know when the professional touch is needed.
Sunnybear wrote: “do not ever try to set your own sound post or move your bridge around to different positions…well not if you care at all about your violin anyway….”
“If you want to do a hack job, do it yourself. If not, find a luthier.”
I was just pointing out that it’s not so black and white, mostly for the benefit of other who might read this thread. I think I’ve made my point.
Hey, I’ve just managed to reset a soundpost for the first time! It’s a bit fiddly (hmm, pun wasn’t really intended) - but after a mere 7 or 8 goes you get the knack of it, and I was only using a sharpened bit of coathanger wire. Here’s where I got some helpful instructions:
a good bit of practical advice, so thank you West Country Violins! I wouldn’t have known about the grain orientation. This was on a fairly OK fiddle - I was putting a Wittner tailpiece on it, and the soundpost fell over. I trimmed up an alternative sound post that got replaced from a different fiddle, and made it about 1mm longer so hopefully it will fit more snugly and won’t fall over again so easily - I think the fiddle sounds about the same - I may get more ambitious and try some slight adjustments to the position, but not just now as it might be a long struggle to repeat the success and I want to end the year on a high note. Also thanks to Will and others for advice in a previous thread about fitting a tailpiece and the correct string afterlength proportions - I think I’ve got it just about right. I agree with Will about having a go at certain things yourself if you feel confident - otherwise take it to a luthier (but what are you going to do in an emergency?!)